Fashion icon and Singapore model, Nadia Rahmat, tells it like it is – from Marc Jacobs and dealing with haters, to Kilo Lounge and VICE-inspired side projects
Singapore’s Nadia Rahmat is not new to the modelling scene. Her striking looks and it-girl credentials caught the attention of major fashion house, Marc Jacobs, making her the face of its 2015 campaign which blew up worldwide, featuring in Singapore’s Marc Jacobs stores as well as London’s Harrods. Wondering what this starlet has been up to since Marc Jacobs, we sat down and chatted with the down-to-earth stunner, where she weighed in on her modelling career post-Marc Jacobs, dealing with haters, managing events at Kilo Lounge, Kilo Kallang and Camp Kilo, pursuing side projects, and how we can all uplift Singapore’s diverse representation.
Hi Nadia! How does it feel going international – representing Singapore and people with unconventional styles?
It has always been nice. In reality, we’re so multicultural, but when non-Singaporeans think about Singapore, they’re quick to associate us with China. So being able to represent the diversity of what our country has to offer is a nice feeling overall. This works especially for a brand like Marc Jacobs – a brand that is diverse in itself – which prefers models that are not your typical clean-cut models. That’s the sort of brand I want to be associated with.
Are you still modelling?
In Singapore, I mostly do editorials, lookbooks and campaign shoots. My look isn’t really popular in the Singapore market, which still leans towards the Eurasian/Caucasian look, and the need to be really tall, and have fairer skin. But I do get modelling jobs that are relevant to my style.
Speaking of looks, tell us about Mihaela Noroc’s The Atlas of Beauty project, where you were featured to represent Singapore.
When she approached me, it was meant to be a passion project of hers. We got in touch, and she sent me previews of her side projects which I thought were pretty cool. When I started my modelling career – mainly for fun and gaining exposure – I was fonder of portrait shoots. I love working with different photographers, observing their eye for detail and seeing their different perspectives – capturing different expressions, faces and angles.
The photos went viral, and there were mixed views from the Singapore public. How did you feel about it?
There were two kinds of responses from the project. Most were positive, but I had people all over the world correcting the ‘right’ representation of Singapore. But at the end of the day, that’s the photographer’s work and just her way of interpreting what diversity means to her. By no means is it the only way; everyone has different interpretations. In Singapore, I feel that people blew it out of proportion asking, “Why does Singapore look like that?” or “That’s a weird representation of Singapore”. Skin colour also became an issue which I personally find quite funny. I guess people forget that the project isn’t the only representation of Singapore, our community and cultures. Nonetheless, it was a very interesting experience. Everyone has different opinions. It’s a matter of understanding and looking at it from different perspectives.
Hater gon’ hate. But how do you deal with haters? Do they bring you down?
I’ve always brushed negative comments aside. It exploded after the Marc Jacobs stint, where people were commenting on the way I looked and dressed in the photos I submitted. People are always going to judge. Or if they understand something, they’ll try to categorise you in certain ways so that they can easily put you in a box. For me, I’m not really bothered by it. I mean, it’s kind of human nature to judge, but I just take it with a pinch of salt, and not let it get to me too much. It’s pretty humbling that some of them would spend so much time hating or coming up with negative comments – like you got nothing better to do, ah?
Be honest, do you ignore or listen to such comments?
I listen, because you never know when you’re going to come across something interesting – like how do they know, or where did they get their facts from? But even if they’re wrong, I’m more likely to get amused than heated up. Like, it’s sweet of them to spend precious time thinking of ways to strike me rather than doing something productive. We should always uplift each other rather than bring each other down.
How do you walk around in a style that defines solely you?
That has a lot to do with confidence, in a way that you’re dressing for yourself, not anyone else. Say if I get inspired by a certain style and feel comfortable pulling it off, I’ll give it a go. I don’t really think about what people feel about my style. Life is short, and if your decisions are subjected to other people’s thoughts, then you’re not really living your life as fulfilling as you’d want it to be. If you feel conscious about something, then you won’t feel as confident to bear the freedom of expressing yourself.
Besides being a model, you’re also handling events at Kilo Kallang, Kilo Lounge and Camp Kilo. How do you manage your busy schedule?
So I’ve been at Kilo full-time for about two years. The nature of my job is that I don’t have to be in the office from 9 to 5, and I can move around a bit more rather than being stuck in the office, giving me the freedom to do all these other projects on the side. I like doing a lot of things at once – I’m a multitasker! [laughs]. I want to look at things from different perspectives; like, I don’t want to be focusing only on events just because I’m doing events management. Thankfully, my job’s pretty flexible – lucky!
Any side projects creeping up?
I’ve always wanted to go back into presenting. I was with RazorTV during my Poly days which was quite fun. I also love watching VICE documentaries and would love to start my own! When totally inspired, I’m always on the lookout for various avenues to go about it, asking people about resources, costs and all the little things. Maybe it’ll happen again!
Time for some rapid-fire questions! Tattoos or piercings?
Piercings, for sure.
Dark or bright clothes?
Dark… like my soul [laughs].
Dark or bright makeup?
Dark but with minimal makeup.
Top-half or full-length photos?
Portraits can translate to selfies. So I’d go with full-length!
Follow Nadia Rahmat (@skinnykatwoman) on Instagram.